Daddy, Put Down Your Phone!

One of the things I am hearing more and more these days from my daughter is, “Daddy, put down your phone!”. This is also seems to be a common theme in many of the comments I have seen in the google+ community for my current Masters of Education class, EC & I 831. Many of my classmates, myself included, have noticed that time on our smart phones and other devices is taking time away from family. In my previous two blog posts I have been singing the praises of social media but thought I should explore another side of the story and try to answer a few questions. Do I spend too much time on my phone checking my various social media sites? Do I rely on social media as a distraction from other things going on in my life? Do my relationships suffer because I am spending too much time on my phone?

One of the catalysts for this blog post was a video clip I recently saw of comedian Louis C.K. on the Connan O’Brien show. In the video below Louis shares his feelings about cell phones.

Obviously this is an exaggerated commentary by a comedian on a talk show but it really got me thinking about my own personal cell phone use. I find myself on my phone more and more when I have a spare moment. Often I am texting or sending emails to people that I need to communicate with. Sometimes I am using social media in a more official manner, for example; running my schools twitter account, reading, posting and commenting for my aforementioned masters class, promoting an upcoming comedy show on Facebook or Twitter, or writing my latest blog post. However, the rest of the time I am on my phone I am is just surfing around my social media sites; Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, goggle+, Instagram, YouTube, and now my blog. I am listening to music, watching videos, listening to podcasts, reading and responding to Facebook and twitter posts, looking at peoples pictures on Instagram, and communicating with people via instant messaging and email. Sometimes I have to force myself to put my phone down, and sometimes my daughter reminds me that we are in the middle of a tea party and I need to put my phone away!


I am very aware that when I am spending time with my daughter, my girlfriend, my family, or my friends, I should put my phone away and give them the attention they deserve. But what really got me thinking when I watched the Louis C.K. video was his point he made about people using cell phones to avoid feeling lonely. For those of us with smart phones, we have constant access to friends, family, celebrities, sports, music, videos, and pictures. If we so choose, we never have to be alone with our thoughts. Some may argue, “Isn’t looking at a smart phone the same as watching TV?”, and I would say that it is and it isn’t. Using cell phones acts as a distraction the same way watching TV does, but social media is much more interactive than watching TV. You are still alone with your thoughts when watching TV, and when you are on social media sites, you are communicating with people, just not face to face, so there is the allusion of human interaction. I agree with Louis C.K. when he says that people reach for their phones to avoid feeling lonely, to avoid the things they don’t want to think about, and I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing.

I love my phone and I love staying connected with people via social media, but I really do think that our real life human interactions are suffering. It is very cool to be exchanging twitter messages with a friend on the other side of the world, but how about chatting with the person beside you at the dentist office or the person beside you at your child’s swimming lesson. Or more importantly, how about spending a little more time with the people that mean the most to you like your friends and family. Check the link below for some helpful tips on how to limit your social media time and increase your human interaction.

As much as I am an advocate for the proper use of social media, I am also a fan of good, old fashioned, human interaction. So the next time you are tempted to reach for your phone to check your Facebook, or text somebody, try striking up a conversation with the person sitting next to you or maybe try just being alone with your thoughts for a little while. Disconnect from your phone for a moment, and try reconnecting with yourself. (Whoa, that was deep.)

I would love to hear what you think on this topic so please comment below! Cheers!



17 thoughts on “Daddy, Put Down Your Phone!

  1. Interesting thoughts…. Luckily I still do not have a phone with Internet and that is for a reason. However, I do have a twitter account and Facebook.

  2. The issue of always being connected is definitely a big one these days. Where before it used to require a land line to make a phone call (and if someone wasn’t home, they didn’t answer), we can be anywhere and answer now. As you said, Ryan, we can hit up social media wherever we are or be tied into things.

    The camera issue reminds me of John Mayer’s “3×5” It’s so easy to be distracted talking about or taking pictures of the things we are doing. We need to make the decision about what gets our attention but I think being more aware of that is important. I know a lot of people who have an enforced off time or have rules about when their devices get put down. I am trying to set aside more times when I unplug. I love being connected to the world online and I consider those connections just as valid as being face to face with someone, but if I am face to face with someone, they deserve my attention if that is why we are face to face.

    • Thanks for the comment Kirsten! The camera analogy is a good one. I too am guilty of that one as well. Taking pictures of the event instead of experiencing the event!

      I also agree with you in that I value my online relationships and feel they deserve my attention as well, and people who are not as connected via social media have a tough time understanding this. But I am also aware that I sometimes I need to just put the phone away.

      • Yup, sometimes you just have to put the phone or camera down and enjoy. 🙂 And other times you should pick it up and snap some pictures or text or share a YouTube video. My husband and I do that occasionally, or have the discussion over who is in what movie or what voice actor that is and suddenly one of us has our phone out to answer the question. It all depends on why you have your phone in your hand.

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  4. I also realize it’s a risk for us to communicate with people fa way more than people close to us. However, it’s easy for us to get a bad habit of looking at the smart phone or ipad from while to while to kill time, even it’s unnecessary. For me, it’s really difficult to get rid of this habit. Sometimes I think the addiction on social media can’t be controlled.

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree that sometimes it is a compulsion just to have the phone in your hand and be flipping though Facebook or twitter or whatever. It is like an addiction sometimes. Just like some people need to have a cigarette in their hand, many people need the comfort of a phone in their hand. It is a very interesting sub-culture of smart phone users.

  5. Found your post very meaningful. Just yesterday I was out for a walk with my daughter and dog and that is what she was asking me to do or I felt I should be doing As I was checking Twitter, Google+, Facebook, etc and ignoring what she was saying or just saying “yes” or “ah-ha”. I got home and realized that I missed out on not only bonding time with my daughter, but valuable time to talk and teach. What did I show her was more important her or my phone? Next time I will leave the phone at home, or hope that I can!

    • I often feel the same way Greg. My daughter will be trying to get my attention and I am saying, “just a minute, just a minute, daddy needs to finish this text”. You’re right, what kind of message does that send? And how does a 4 year old internalize those messages? I know that we cannot give our kids 100% of our attention 100% of the time, but I think we need to be careful about our phone use around our kids.

      Thanks for the comment Cory!

  6. Well, Ryan, I have to say that you hit the nail on the head. I loved the video. Of course, I don’t like telephones and all these cell phones drive me crazy. One day, I was at a restaurant and there was a family sitting next to me, and they were all texting but not talking to each other. Talking to someone out there was more important than connecting with the people right in front of them. I wonder if it’s because talking to the person out there is easier. You don’t have to read their expressions or look into the other person’s eyes that come sometimes be difficult and revealing. I realize that social media can maintain connections and can be a very powerful tool for change and generating ideas. However, I am concerned that people are so hooked up to all their media that they never stop to feel things or to look inward or to meditate or reflect or to look outwards at the world or at the person across the table. We ask people to reflect on their jobs on their blogs, but sometimes people need to look at themselves or the beautiful world around them and reflect on what is purposeful. A teacher friend once told me a story about going hunting. He said that while he was hunting, his friend was constantly texting on his phone. Finally, he said to his friend, “Give me that thing.” He took it, and threw it away. “There,” he said, “now let’s enjoy and go hunting.” There needs to be a place of quiet or for nature.

    Before my dad died, he was hooked up to an intravenous drip because he stopped eating. The intravenous kept him alive, but the question was, what kind of life was that? Yes, it’s great to be plugged in, but there needs to be those times when everyone becomes unplugged to experience sadness, joy, or amazement or wonder.

    • Thanks for the reply, you have made some really good points. I too wonder if people use social media and their smart phones to hide away and disconnect from the real world. And I think you are right, some people might find it easier to connect on-line than they do in real life. But I guess that for some, this may be the only way that they can express themselves or be heard, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do think that their real world social interactions will suffer.

      It is also possible that the same people that hide in their phones are the same people that used to hide in a book or behind a journal or sketch pad. Something to think about anyway.

      However, in a social situation, I think we need to try and put the phones away for awhile and engage and interact with the people around us.

  7. Thanks for the post Ryan. I can really relate to this. It is a constant balancing act between spending too much time on my phone and spending quality time with my kids. It is usually my wife that gives me heck for spending too much time on the phone not my kids. “You should be helping to get the kids ready for school or bed”. Even though my kids don’t say it I am sure they think my phone is more important than they are which is not what I want. My phone is now my camera and video recorder as well. I am always wanting to capture special moments of my kids doing something. My wife says “just watch and enjoy the moment instead of always trying to get a picture.”. There is probably some truth to this statement but at the same time I want to capture everything my kids do because I can and it is so easy which wasn’t the case when I was a kid. The phone has proved helpful in this class in that I can make a blog post from anywhere. But I have also had frustrations using the phone not doing what I want it to like making posts on other people’s blogs from within the feedly app (ECI 831 blog RSS feed reader). Using all of these apps on my phone for this class is a bit of a test for me to see how mobile I can be. So far it has worked fairly well. I still prefer my laptop for most things in this class.

    • Thanks for the comment Greg. I find that I am using my phone more and more and my laptop less and less. But you are right, it really is a juggling act sometimes. You want to be engaged with the people around you and stay connected online, and capture the special moments with friends and family, while experiencing them at the same time, while sharing those pictures and video’s simultaneously. It is such a weird and amazing time that we live in.

      Remember the days when you had to take a roll of film in to be developed and wait before you could see the pictures, and then you had to physically show those pictures to your friends and family one at a time. Or you had to phone someone to tell them about an amazing experience you had, maybe a trip or a concert, and you had to relay the story again and again to different people. Now you can share those pictures and experiences in an instant, to all your friends and family at once. And we sometimes forget how amazing that is!

      But again, it really is a balancing act. The difficulty is finding that balance between giving attention to those around you and living in the moment, and also capturing that moment and sharing it with people. I will keep searching for that balance!

  8. I think so many people can relate to what you talk about in your blog post. When I forget my smart phone at home it feels like the end of the world! Yet, what a first world problem. The word balance comes to mind when I think about the use of technology in our lives. We can learn so much using technology, yet we also need to remember what we are missing when our eyes are only focused on screens. Thanks for your post!

    • Thanks for the comment Jessica! And I totally agree, balance is the key. People have become very reliant on their phones, myself included, and they are not going anywhere. Not to mention, smart phones can be amazing tools that make our lives easier and better. However, we also have to learn to put our phones away and live in the moment! Balance is the key.

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